Who Is Deadpool? Get Up to Speed on the Merc With a Mouth Before Seeing the Movie

·Editor-in-Chief, Yahoo Entertainment
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Let’s make this crystal clear. Deadpool is no Captain America-like choirboy. He’s no selfless Spider-Man. And if you think Wolverine and Iron Man can sling the sarcasm, Deadpool brings next-level snark.

Heck, the raison raison d’être for Deadpool in the Marvel Universe was to be the antithesis of the costumed cadre of heroes. Anyhoo, the chimichanga-loving, fourth-wall-smashing Merc With a Mouth is headlining his own movie this weekend, so we wanted provide a little Deadpool 101 to prepare you for the mayhem. Beware, there are some mild spoilers below.

Who is Deadpool?

His real name is Wade Wilson, a young Canadian mercenary (targeting only those he feels deserve to die) who falls for a stripper/prostitute, gets diagnosed with terminal cancer, and joins the covert Weapons X program as a lab rat. Injections of Wolverine’s quick-healing genes halt the cancer — but mutate Wilson, leaving his body scarred and his brain unhinged. He eventually winds up in the Workshop of a facility called the Hospice, a torture chamber operated by a deranged doctor and his psycho assistant, Ajax. The “patients” have a dead pool, betting on which of them will survive the longest. Wilson and Ajax develop a mutual enmity, especially after Wilson discovers the latter’s name is Francis. Ajax eventually attacks Wilson, ripping out his heart and leaving him for dead. But Wilson’s healing factor kicks in, and he recovers, adopts the name Deadpool, and makes himself an awfully nice costume.

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The character debuted in Marvel’s 1991 comic The New Mutants No. 98 and was initially a villainous creation of writer Fabian Nicieza (who gets name-checked in the movie via a pair of highway signs) and artist-writer Rob Liefeld (who cameos in the film). Liefeld based his design on Spider-Man and Wolverine, and the creators also drew inspiration from the DC mercenary Deathstroke (real name: Slade Wilson) — which has stoked “who would win?” battles among respective fans ever since.

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Deathstroke in ‘Batman: Arkham Origins’ (Rocksteady Games/Warner Bros. Interactive)

The movie is loosely based on storylines by Joe Kelly, who helmed the comic Deadpool during its 1997-99 heyday, and helped establish the template of the smart-alecky, pop-culture-obsessed, Ferris Bueller-esque rogue antihero the character has become.

What are his superpowers?

He can heal from virtually any injury. The guy came back from having his heart ripped out after all, hence his other nickname: the Regenerating Degenerate. But that’s really his only power. He does have some nifty martial arts skills and knows his way around any weapon, as seen in the movie; in the comics, he also has a personal teleportation device, along with a holographic gizmo that can disguise his identity, and a bag containing unlimited ammo.

He’s a mutant but not an X-Man?

Correct-o-mundo. While Deadpool is firmly established as being part of the cinematic X-Men universe, he is not part of the roster, despite Colossus’s entreaties in the new film.

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Although no one’s idea of a team player, Deadpool did do time with the X-Men offshoot X-Force in the comics. And in the Nation X storyline, Deadpool had a probationary stint with the X-Men, but it didn’t stick.

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What about his previous movie appearance?

The less said about Deadpool’s debut in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the better. That initial take, also played by Reynolds with a sewn-shut mouth and retractable sabers in his arms, was a far cry from the beloved comic-book version.

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Reynolds, director Tim Miller, and screenwriters Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese have all said they wanted to completely reboot Deadpool in the movie, because Wolverine made a mockery of the character. Reynolds has repeatedly dissed Wolverine in interviews, promotional spots, and in the film Deadpool. It has even sparked a mock feud between him and Wolverine’s big-screen alter ego, Hugh Jackman.

Watch our interview with Deadpool:

Who are Deadpool’s sidekicks?

In the movie, Deadpool’s circle of friends include his gal (Vanessa Carlysle, played by Morena Baccarin), his pal (Weasel, played by T.J. Miller), and Blind Al (Leslie Uggams). All are based on characters from the comics, but have undergone some big changes. Most prominently, Vanessa is a shape-shifting mutant known as Copycat (not unlike Mystique from the X-Men movies), who fights alongside Deadpool; however, she shows no signs of superpowers in the film.

Related: Why Isn’t Deadpool’s Girlfriend a Superhero Too?

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Vanessa Carlysle in ‘Deadpool’ and as Copycat (Fox/Marvel)

The movie version of Weasel is closer to the comics character of Patch, who is proprietor of the mercenary-catering watering hole known as Hell House (erected on the site of Sister Margaret’s Home for Wayward Girls, which gets a shout-out in the film). In the comics, Weasel is a former classmate of Peter Parker who becomes Deadpool’s weapon provider, tech support, and reluctant henchman. But both the movie and comic-book Weasel wear glasses.

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Cinematic and comic versions of Weasel (Fox/Marvel)

Blind Al (a.k.a. Althea) is also way different from her origins. In the movie she’s strictly comic relief, but in the comics she was a former British operative who had a fling with Captain America in WWII and whom Deadpool was hired to kill. He spared her life, but kept her locked up in his home (known as the Deadhut), where she had a complicated relationship with him as both hostage and maternal figure.

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Blind Al as seen in the movie and the comics (Fox/Marvel)

The one major character associated with Deadpool in Marvel’s comicverse is Cable, the time-hopping son of X-Men’s Cyclops with telekinetic powers and leader of X-Force. The fellow mutants teamed up for their own series, but there is no sign of Cable in the new movie. Maybe they’re saving him for the sequel. Or maybe Deadpool wants the spotlight all too himself.

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In the movie, Deadpool also spends quality crime-fighting time with the X-Men tandem of Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. The steel-skinned Colossus has popped in in most of the previous X-Men movies, including 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, played by Daniel Cudmore. Cudmore opted not to return this time around, so Deadpool’s Colossus was a CGI creation voiced by Serbian actor Stefan Kapičić.

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New Colossus vs. the previous ‘X-Men’ edition (Fox)

So what exactly is a Negasonic Teenage Warhead?

In the film, she’s an emo teen mutant under the tutelage of Colossus and played by Brianna Hildebrand. She has the power to create a concentrated nuclear explosion, which is a radical change from the comic-book version.

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The Deadpool writers went deep into Marvel’s basement for the character, who was named after the song “Negasonic Teenage Warhead” by Monster Magnet, and appeared in only one issue, New X-Men No. 115 in 2001.

The original was a telepathic student at Professor X’s School for the Gifted who didn’t make it out of the issue alive. Aside from sharing a name and school, the two mutants have little else in common.

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Negasonic Teenage Warhead now (l) and then (Fox/Marvel)

Any other differences from the Marvel comics?

Deadpool’s home base, the Deadhut, was in San Francisco, and Sister Margaret’s was in Chicago, but the movie is set in New York City.

Who are the bad guys?

Ajax (Ed Skrein) is the film’s primary antagonist. The cinematic character is fairly true to the comics, in that Ajax is really named Francis, has super strength, enhanced agility, and is impervious to pain, and enjoys tormenting Wade Wilson and the other patients. In the comics, however, Ajax also wears a cybernetic costume that boosts his powers.

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Ajax doesn’t need a cybernetic suit in the movie (Fox/Marvel)

His chief muscle is Angel Dust (Gina Carano), who, like her comics counterpart, is a mutant who can amp up her adrenaline, giving her temporary Hulk-like powers. The Marvel character is a real deep cut, appearing in a handful of largely forgotten stories from the early 2000s.

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Angel Dust has similar powers to comic version (Fox/Marvel)

Why chimichangas?

Why not? They’re delicious.

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Will there be a sequel?

Based on the reviews (an 81 percent “fresh” rating at RottenTomatoes) and the box-office tracking, Deadpool should make some bank. All the major players are signed to multi-film deals. There’s a Hollywood Reporter report that the screenwriters are already kicking around ideas for the next installment. Will there be a Deadpool 2? You bet your sweet patootie.

Watch good sport extraordinaire Ryan Reynolds hang with Deadpool cosplayers: